How I Homeschool With a Chronic Illness

Updated on January 24, 2017

Mommy's Sick, but Let's Do Homeschool!

I have Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD). Most people won't know what I am talking about and if you do, you probably have it or have a friend or family member who has it. I won't go into a boring medical explanation but suffice it to say, it is related to Lupus. People with MCTD have chronic pain, fatigue, bad immune systems and a host of other symptoms. Yet, I am a homeschooling mom. If you are suffering with a chronic illness and you homeschool, you have probably already figured it out. If you want to homeschool but do not due to your chronic illness, this article is here to tell you "YES, YOU CAN." Perhaps you don't have a chronic illness, but you are on bed rest due to pregnancy or injury, you can apply what I have learned by trial and error.

Bed School

When I first started homeschooling my kids, I thought I needed a designated school room. Great idea, but it didn't work for me. With my chronic pain, sitting in a chair is very painful. On a tough day, we decided to try "Bed School" and to be honest with you, a big portion of our education is done from my adjustable bed. We call it Bed School!

We make sure the bed is neatly made. An untidy bed equals and untidy mind but that is the only real rule we have for bed school days. Sometimes we get dressed, other days we stay in our pajamas.

We decide what activity we are going to start with. My daughter is now 17 and does a combination of High School and College. Some of her work is done from a computer so a laptop and lap desk are important for us to bring to bed school. My adjustable bed is a perfect place for reading too. Most activities (except for art) can be done from my bed.

When I am extremely sick, we might use some educational videos or television programming. Even if I were not sick, it would be a great way to break up the day. There are many educational videos you can choose from free of charge at the library or your favorite educational programming on cable or streaming.

Car School

In addition to Bed School, we have Car School. Instead of fighting in the car, when the kids were young, we did things such as spelling bees, multiplication tables, word games and discussing current events. Now that my children are high school age, we keep a book from our high school reading list in the car at all times and the kids take turns reading out loud while I drive. We have discussions on almost every topic under the sun and often, my kids take turns being "the teacher" and teaching others about their current topics of study. My daughter Gabby is studying to be a Vet Assistant so often her lessons are about animals. Noah is fascinated by military history and loves teaching about the Civil War and global events.

Car School is a good time for debates too. My kids communicate more in the car than anywhere else. When we don't have the stamina for these activities we find other ways to do Car School.

My daughter is studying French and uses a free app called Durolingo to practice and learn. Sometimes we watch licence plates and try to share fun facts about the states we see. What is the State bird? What are the border states? What are some of the local crops from that state? Who is the Governor of that state. It feels like playing but it is actually learning. We also have portable DVD players and a built in DVD player for education in my van too.

Hospital and "Medical School"

With a chronic illness, medical appointments are a necessity. Sadly, my 15 year old was also diagnosed with brain cancer at age 11. Therefore, we do school at Hospitals, Doctor's offices and all kinds of medical appointments. At times there are long waits for providers or long days when we travel out of town for oncology appointments.

First rule of what we joking call "Medical School" is be prepared! A backpack with books, writing instruments, calculators etc. is mandatory. Each child has the responsibility of taking their own school work that can be done while we wait. We also utilize the time with the Doctors and Nurses as a "health class". My children are both very well versed with everything from understanding their bodies to understanding medical procedures. There is also a wealth of information in the inner offices for a spontaneous anatomy lesson!

Learning From Task

I am not in bed or my car all the time contrary to popular opinion! We utilize our everyday trips and chores to learn as well. When I cook, I have the kids help. They learn to measure, learn cooking terms, learn about foods and nutrition and most importantly, learn independent living skills. We count this as home ec class and yes, boys need home ec. too!!!!!!

All of us have to go to the grocery. I started when my kids were small having them write out the grocery list to help with penmanship and spelling. We used the unit pricing on the shelves to learn to compare the cost of different items. My children also play a game of estimating in their head the final cost of the groceries to learn rapid math skills.

We go camping too. This is a great opportunity to learn about nature. Those nature hikes are PE too! We love cooking over an open fire and talking about how life was different in days gone by.

These are just a few ideas but consider what errands you have to run this week and consider how you can make these errands educational for your children. Ditto for task around the home. Do you have to do laundry? Ever consider making homemade laundry soap? It saves money and helps your children learn to measure. Do you need to make dinner? Involve the kids. How about growing a garden and letting your kids learn about plants, nature and nutrition.

But What About Socialization?

That is the question that every homeschool Mom HATES. As a therapist, I will tell you that unless you raise your kids in a bubble, they have socialization!

Homeschool kids learn to socialize with people of all ages not just children that are in the same grade, the same age and the same socioeconomic group as they are.

It is also nice sometimes just to get out of the house too. Is there a homeschool group at your local library? Is there a co-op close by? Is there a homeschool group for socialization? If not START ONE!

When I first started homeschooling, I thought that taking time off was going to put me behind schedule but that was before I knew that most things still were educational. PE is a great activity to do in a group. Go bowling. Go skating. Take the kids to a park or a basketball court. Go swimming. We also have fun doing art projects in a group with Mom's taking turns organizing and buying supplies. And yes, our kids SOCIALIZE!

Volunteering or Other jobs

Volunteering is another great way to get out and get involved! Even small children can do something to help their communities. Let your interest lead you! We have volunteered at a Pregnancy Center. My kids went to a very poor urban area to give out food and clothing to the poor. We have helped with disaster relief. Most social agencies can use help.

Church has opportunities as well. My daughter and I teach a Sunday school class and also run a teen group. Yes, we count Sunday as "school". Perhaps your children just want to attend. That is fine too. My guess is there will be reading, art, a lesson plan and critical thought involved. Even sitting next to you in church can be educational. Chances are they are hearing music. My children sang in a children's choir when they were little and did bell choir. These were free music classes that I could not afford to provide on my own.

Kids love to help others. My daughter tutors which keeps her fresh in her skills she learned in earlier grades. Find ways that your child can help make the community around them a better place. Civic duty is a great way to develop character.

Field Trips

When you are able, plan some field trips too. Museums are great in larger areas. If you live in a rural area, you might have less to choose from but I am sure you can find some interesting sites to explore.

Field trips are often "rabbit holes" that we jump in and follow. For example, we went to a Serpent Mound and learned about mound builders. That led to a study of Native American tribes. That led to a discussion and study of different times of man. That led to Native American art and fun projects to do at home. Don't be afraid to follow a rabbit hole or deviate from your plan. Things that kids want to learn about don't tend to feel like school at all.

PS don't forget Car School to and From your field trip!

Vacation time can also be learning time. If you are married, it may also give your spouse an opportunity to let you rest and be the teacher! No matter where you go, learning can occur. Of course if you are an unschooler, you already know this.

Not the end, just the beginning!

At the end of a story, we normally say "the end"but this is just the beginning! I hope that this brief little article has given you some idea but more importantly some confidence in your ability to educate your children even when you are ill.

I wish you many rabbit holes! I wish you fond memories! I wish you good health and happiness!

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